Since his WWE debut on the ECW brand back in 2008, Kofi Kingston picked up a reputation for being one of the most promising stars for the company in the near future. He kept an undefeated streak — in singles matches — since his debut in January all the way through to May where he was beaten by Shelton Benjamin. He’s a multiple time Tag Team Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and United States Champion.
As of today, Kingston is 31 years of age. A world of difference compared to his age of 26 when he walked through the curtains as a Jamaican high-flyer on SyFy five years ago. Kingston will turn 32 this August.
Where did the time go on this dynamic star?
It’s simple: Kingston remained in midcard limbo for the majority of his WWE run with the closest he’s ever come to a main-event push by way of a feud with Randy Orton.
When you are left doing the same exact work you have been doing for half a decade, the days drop like leaves in Autumn.
To take a closer look at his gigantic push with Orton, we must retreat to late-2009, almost two years following his WWE debut.
At the inaugural Bragging Rights Pay-Per-View, Randy Orton was set to defend his WWE Championship against John Cena in a 60-minute Ironman Match held under No DQ rules. At one point, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase had come out to support their mentor Orton, that is until Kofi Kingston ran out with a steel chair in hand as the cavalry chasing out the second-generation wrestlers.
Orton would go on to lose that title match later blaming the loss directly on Kingston’s involvement at ringside. This naturally set up a feud between the two which reached a tantalizing level of excitement.
On one occasion, Kofi Kingston dumped paint all over a custom-made stock car of Randy Orton while also keying and roughing up the vehicle with a crowbar. It was a star-making performance as he was not some midcarder whose job was to cut cheesy promos. He showed emotion. People bought the bad blood and more importantly, they bought Kingston as a future title contender.
In November — the month following the vehicle angle — Kingston and Orton performed a brawl battling throughout the Madison Square Garden arena. To finish it off, Kingston did a Boom Drop off of a railing onto Orton through a table garnering a big response from the fans. Perhaps it was the New York crowd which helped make Kingston come off like a star on that show, but everything clicked and he was essentially set to one day feud over the WWE Championship.
At that point in his career he might not have been ready for that type of push, but the fans were ready.
Kingston and Orton would fight on opposite teams for Survivor Series that year which saw Kingston’s team emerge the victors. Kingston was the last man on his team as he eliminated Orton to take the win.
On a following RAW, Kingston and Orton faced off in a singles encounter which had Orton win with ease due to an earlier backstage assault by Rhodes and DiBiase.
A rematch the following week had Kingston going over Orton thanks to a fast-count assist by guest host Mark Cuban. The two would go on to have a rubber match at TLC 2009 with Orton taking the series 2-1 with a victory. The feud would continue for one final bout on the January 4th of RAW — coinciding with TNA’s live debut of Impact — which had Orton defeat Kingston to end the bad blood once and for all.
Kingston would remain relevant as he’d participate in the 2010 Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship only to be eliminated by Sheamus. John Cena would go on to win the match and become the WWE Champion. His sixth run with the belt which ended as quickly as it began with Mr. McMahon awarding Batista with the title match as he quickly picked up the victory.
Since then, Kofi Kingston has floundered in the middle of the card picking up respectable runs with the Intercontinental and United States titles, as well as tag team title reigns alongside R-Truth and Evan Bourne.
Lately, Kofi Kingston has been used as an enhancement talent completely soiling his push with Randy Orton. His last title run — as Intercontinental Champion — ended in December of 2012 dropping the belt to Wade Barrett. Following that loss, Kingston would go on to win only seven matches out of 18 total matches including the 2013 Royal Rumble.
After a win over David Otunga on WWE Superstars in the final week of February this year, Kingston has spent March making both Dolph Ziggler and Mark Henry look good for their roles in the upcoming WrestleMania Pay-Per-View — an event Kingston has yet to be booked on.
Kingston has stagnated on the WWE roster, but he is not a lost cause for the most part. At 31, the naturally gifted athlete enters the prime of his career and will look to take advantage of nearly every opportunity the WWE throws at him to try to gain traction in the company.
One of those opportunities, rumored by the brunt of the dirtsheets lately, is a possible heel turn taking a full 180-degree turn from his entire WWE run where he had been a squeaky clean, high-flying babyface.
Could Kofi Kingston pull off being a heel?
I have the utmost confidence that he would do everything in his power to make the turn work. He’s underrated on the mic post-Jamaican accent and during the times he has shown seriousness, he looked like a guy who could take things to the next level both physically and emotionally.
A fine in-ring performer, he could be paired up with guys like John Cena, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan (assuming he turns into a babyface), hell, he could revisit his feud with Orton and create an entirely different dynamic from their last set of battles together.
There is a tremendous amount of potential that comes with Kofi Kingston turning heel. While it goes against nearly everything I’ve said up to this point, Kingston could remain a midcarder and still be fresh as a heel character. Now, the WWE should use the momentum he will undoubtedly garner while being a heel United States or Intercontinental Champion to then challenge for the World titles. If they leave him behind reverting back to the idea that he isn’t ready yet, then it’ll become clear that the problem falls on the company’s shoulders and not Kingston himself.
It is way too early to tell if a heel turn could position Kingston closer to a World Championship win from where he currently stands, however if he can make it work, there’s no reason to believe why it couldn’t help. To prevent his career from being written off as revolving around a guy who collected second-tier titles — titles the WWE has trouble making seem important — Kofi Kingston is in a now-or-never situation where he can either refresh his wrestling career by re-inventing himself or leave the WWE altogether and lend his skills to New Japan or TNA Wrestling.
I’ve written before about Wade Barrett being a superstar to watch in 2013; add Kofi Kingston to that list. The WWE will either do something with the man or continue to let him waste away as “the wrestler who never could”.